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March 12, 2016
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Artists Books: Made in Venice

My time in Venice was ridiculously generative. I embodied the cliche inspiration flowing through me like a turned-on faucet towards the end of my stay. A faucet that has continued to stream ideas and projects faster than I can keep up. My ideas often found themselves in the form of a book structure. My intentions for Venice included copious amounts of letterpress printing, but for some reason my practice continued to steer clear of that medium. Instead I played with the materials that I love: painted papers, gesso, collage-like practices, text and the transformation of prints/papers discarded by others.

Wayfinding 3 webWayfinding Star: This book is the inspiration for my solo exhibition Wayfinding at MCLA’s Gallery 51 opening this summer on July 28th. Wayfinding Star documents departure from latitude 42.562 / longitude -73.1629 (Cheshire, MA where I live) to latitude 45.4343 / longitude 12.3388 (Venice, Italy where I spent winter 2016). Each line in the middle layer represents latitude and longitude lines, Wayfinding 1 webdemonstrating the closeness in latitude but distance in longitude. The text on the front layer recounts experiences navigating in Venice as I lost and found my way, always listening for the toll of church bells, the back layer of the book. The eight-point star references the compass rose and the many geometrical patterns centered on the number eight encountered throughout Venice.

Parallel Pathways reveals my discovery that there was often more than one way to get somewhere, if you were willing to be present to being lost and unattached to time. Parallel to this discovery, I noticed that somewhere in the past centuries, the Madonna has become unnoticed, a piece of art history for many and a point of prayer for few. This juxtaposition between time, journey, art history and prayer captivated my attention through the form of this storage book holding elements of the journey of Venice.


We Are Not Ephemeral webIn We Are Not Ephemeral I continued my need to follow the weather while in Venice by watching the tide charts. During my first ten days I experienced acqua alta a couple of times—nothing too impressive, but enough to warrant rubber boots in a few places. This books considers the ebb and flow of relationships and the desire for them to not be ephemeral. It’s a simple accordion book made from pressure printing, dry point, handset type and a hand-stitched pathway.

Egress Web 1An Appetite for Egress was the first book I made in Venice. The structure uses Hedi Kyle’s storage book but with thin binder’s board instead of cardstock. This material creates solid pages that clatter as you page through the book in a way reminiscent of foot-falls. The text evolved from reflections on Joseph Brodsky’s Watermark related to time, water and how so much of walking in Venice is about leaving the past behind.

I am continually grateful to the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica for inviting me to come to Venice, as well as to the Massachusetts Cultural Council whose Northern Berkshire County branch honored me with this year’s Individual Artist Grant which helped fund the trip. I am also grateful to MCLA for awarding me my sabbatical as well as a small professional development that also contributed to the funding of the trip.


  1. Exciting new work, Melanie!

  2. Exciting, lovely, thought provoking!!!!! I can’t wait to see your show!

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